When you look at a smoothly running warehouse or distribution center, you may be reminded of a symphony. Each section of the orchestra pit is doing its part individually yet creating a striking harmony by playing at the same time. However, symphonies do not need to keep a nation well-stocked or customers satisfied. When you have a warehouse, creating a symphony is a little harder. That is why you should implement these best practices for warehouses and distribution centers as soon as you can (if you have not already).
Select The Best Picking Practices
There are multiple picking styles out there, each with advantages and disadvantages. Which one is right for your warehouse or distribution center? That is going to take some consideration.
Here are some picking practices to think about:
- Single order picking: most effective for low-volume warehouses, this method is for picking a single order when it comes in. Single order picking is not effective for warehouses that handle multiple orders throughout the day.
- Picking waves: reduce traffic and synchronize packing by timing picking with the arrival of the courier trucks.
- Zone picking: ideal for large warehouses with multiple floors or storage areas. Pickers retrieve products from the smaller zones and then combine all of those for packing, instead of one picker selecting all the items from an expansive facility.
- Batch or cluster picking: workers pick up items from multiple orders on the same trip through the distribution center or warehouse.
Finding the correct picking practice for your warehouse will take some time. Carefully weigh the options, as well as the layout and size of your distribution center. Depending on the setup of the facility, certain picking practices may be more advantageous than the rest. You can also consider implementing RFID scanning to accelerate picking times and go paperless. Electronic devices, such as scanners, tablets, and smartphones can assist employees with seeking out the locations of bins by searching via SKU.
Conduct a Warehouse Audit
One of the most valuable tools you have is a warehouse audit. An internal warehouse audit is a way for you to assess the performance of your workforce and scan for places that need improvement. You can use the data collection functions of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or a warehouse management system (WMS) and analyze inventory movement, counts, and order fulfillment to see where the process is lagging.
Audits can also be used to check on the inventory, such as double checking locations, removing any expired products, and verifying that everything has been validated and accounted for. This can potentially save your warehouse a lot of time in the long run, since you are correcting mistakes at the same time.
Consider maintenance on equipment as an example. If you are running an audit and discover that a forklift has not been properly maintained, you can then go back to the maintenance logs, see the last time it was reviewed, and then call a mechanic to handle the issue. At the same time, you are preventing an accident that could have potentially ended in a lawsuit.
Optimize Your Warehouse With a WMS
To return to the symphony analogy, conducting a warehouse feels like you are trying to move a million pieces at once. You have the employees, equipment, transactions, and so many other things to worry about. How do you keep track of it all? With a warehouse management system (WMS) like Agility from Wisys.
Managing a warehouse or DC without one would be an absolute train wreck. Think of a WMS as your command central, where you get information about the inventory movements and status, as well as incoming alerts, updates, and real-time visibility. Your pickers can also use the WMS to locate items, scan them, and automatically update stock levels.
Choose a Winning Warehouse Layout
The layout of your warehouse or distribution center is integral to generating a smooth process. The most efficient warehouses have been thoroughly mapped out and set up so that personnel, equipment, products, and transportation flows seamlessly together. You want that kind of smooth sailing for yourself.
Setting up the layout is a bit of trial and error, but you can use a warehouse management system to rule out some possibilities. For example, you can look at the data gathered by the WMS to figure out which items are the most frequently ordered then move those products to where they are more easily found and selected.
This can also be done based on seasonality. If you distribute Christmas trees between November and December, you can move those from a distant location to a more prominent one. When the season is over, replace that bin with another seasonally popular item.
Track Warehouse KPIs
Monitor your inventory and fulfillment KPIs regularly. You get a glimpse of how your processes are working whenever you need it. Check your KPIs as often as you want—weekly, monthly, or yearly. You may find that some KPIs need to be tracked more closely, especially if you are looking for a sign of improvement.
Advanced Shipping Notifications
Did you know that many distribution centers continue to hem and haw about implementing electronically delivered advanced shipping notifications? Maybe for you, it has already happened, but most warehouses overlook the importance. In these times, regular shipping and receiving schedules printed on paper are no longer reliable. The supply chain is in a constant flux caused by delays and mistakes. That is why you need to be able to quickly transmit changes.
Advanced shipping notifications establish a greater level of certainty within the supply chain. Therefore, you should consider utilizing them to keep retailers and customers in the know, particularly when unpredictable changes strike.
Get a More Productive Warehouse With Agility WMS
There is no denying that having a warehouse management system (WMS) like Agility from Wisys is one of the best practices for running a warehouse or distribution center. Using a WMS helps you keep track of everything happening within the warehouse. From there, organizing your inventory, tracking KPIs, and performing audits will keep things running smoothly. If you are looking for an out-of-the-box WMS for your warehouse, give Wisys a call at 770-955-3530 or request a demo.